Some officials dubious of second E-911 center in Lake County
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent June 12, 2014 9:54PM
Updated: July 14, 2014 6:38AM
Lake County officials say they’re skeptical that a plan floated by three E-911 consolidation holdouts will work, but it won’t interfere with their consolidation plans.
“We will accept the decision. We don’t have to agree with it,” Lake County Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said.
The Schererville Town Council on Wednesday passed a resolution to enter into an agreement with St. John and Cedar Lake to create their own emergency dispatch center instead of participating in the countywide consolidation of the E-911 system that’s underway.
The county is under a state mandate to consolidate all of its individual dispatch centers into no more than two by Dec. 31, and 14 municipalities have agreed to use a central dispatch site now under construction at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.
The E-911 center will be financed with the communities’ existing E-911 tax levies, state E-911 phone funds and a portion of Lake County’s new public safety income tax.
The three towns’ plan calls for forming a separate dispatch center and funding it with their current tax levies. Cedar Lake is expected to consider the measure on Tuesday. St. John has not said when it will vote on the proposal.
Officials of the towns have said the resolution gives them the opportunity to determine if a shared E-911 center is economically feasible before moving forward.
Bilski said he has concerns how the separate dispatch center would communicate with the county’s system and what impact that may have on public safety for those residents.
“They are moving in a different direction. I hope it wouldn’t cause any harm,” he said.
Nicole Bennett, attorney for the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission, said there’s nothing in state law that precludes the three towns from forming their own E-911 center.
“The issue I see for them is logistics. How will the two centers coexist and communicate with each other?” Bennett said.
Bilski said the county must move forward assuming the E-911 consolidation will include all 17 cities and towns so it does not get caught short of equipment or personnel if any of the three towns decides it would prefer to be part of the county dispatch center.
“We have to make sure we have everything on line so we are able to take on the full responsibilities… ... We’ll be prepared and ready,” he said.
Brian Hitchcock, the county’s 911 director, said he would like to see the three towns decide to come on board with the rest of the county.
“I’m a little bit saddened. It would be nice to see everybody gain from the synergy and technology,” he said.
Contributing: Correspondent Michelle L. Quinn